On 8 March we celebrate International Women’s Day around the world!
Here at the Deaf Academy, we’re also celebrating deaf women who inspire us today. Here’s a list of 5 deaf women we admire – there are so many inspirational deaf women we could name, so let us know in our Facebook comments who you are celebrating today.
- Jenny Sealey, MBE
Jenny Sealey, MBE, was born and raised in Nottingham. On becoming deaf aged seven, a teacher encouraged her to continue ballet lessons though she could no longer hear the dance instruction; she said Jenny should follow the person in front of her. She did, and it set the course of her career. Jenny has been Artistic Director at Graeae, the well-known UK disability-led theatre company, since 2007. She was also Co-artistic Director of the London 2012 Paralympic opening ceremony, and last March she visited us here at the Academy to talk to and inspire our students. In 2009, she was awarded an MBE in the Queen’s Honour, and in October 2016, Graeae launched Ensemble, a £10,000 crowdfunding campaign to give deaf and disabled creatives training and work experience in the arts. We really admire Jenny for her talent and work ethic, and are grateful for the support she has shown us here at the Academy.
Fun fact: Jenny’s dream dinner guest would be John Thaw. In an interview with BBC Ouch! blog she said “I know he’s dead and gone but I love him. Inspector Morse is my favourite TV show ever.”
Sophie Stone is a deaf British actor who has appeared in many popular shows including Doctor Who, Casualty, Holby City and Midsummer Murders. Sophie was the first deaf person to win a place at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts (RADA), and she is a founding member of The Deaf & Hearing Ensemble, a group of deaf and hearing actors, directors, theatre makers, writers, artists, musicians and dancers who come together to tell each other stories. Their work is a mix of BSL, spoken English, projection, movement, mime, music and soundscapes. Sophie acts without use of her hearing aid, using visual cues to keep her in the zone.
Fun fact: Sophie, along with her co-actor, had to invent signs for certain words in Doctor Who. For example, there’s currently no sign for the word ‘prototype’ so she developed her own. You can watch a clip about Sophie’s experiences on Doctor Who here.
Bethan is a hammer thrower for the Great Britain Deaf Athletics Team and is also a head gymnastics coach. She has been hammer throwing since she was 8 years old, and at age 18 she won the Northern U20 Championships at the Commonwealth Stadium. Last year she travelled to Samsun in Turkey for her third Deaflympics as co-captain of the GB team, where they achieved an amazing 9 medals. Of competing for GB Bethan said; “There is no greater feeling than walking into a throwing circle and wearing your GB best knowing how hard how many sacrifices you’ve made along the way.”
Fun fact: Bethan initially chose to practice hammer throwing as she just wanted to beat her brother!
Laurentia Tan is a profoundly deaf Paralympic Bronze-medal winner in Equestrian. She is based in the UK where she has lived since she was 3, and she competes for Singapore. She won her first Paralympic medal in 2008, at the age of 28, and also won medals at the 2012 London Paralympics. She also has cerebral palsy, and says of her sport: “For me, riding a horse gives me the freedom, movement and energy that my own legs cannot do”. She holds an honours degree from Oxford Brookes University in hospitality management and tourism.
Fun fact: Laurentia is the first Singaporean to win a Paralympic medal, and the holder of Asia’s first Paralympic equestrian medal.
Rehema Namarome became deaf in her teens and went on to start up Uganda’s United Deaf Women Organisation (UDEWO) in 2002. Working with Deaf Child Worldwide, the organisation now empowers 3,000 deaf women and girls. In her mid-twenties she started a community group where deaf women and men would meet regularly to socialise and talk about the issues they faced being deaf. She soon realised that while the men would talk about their jobs and life outside the group – for the women, this group was all they had. She realised that deaf women were missing out on so much so she set up UDEWO. As Executive Director she wants to see a society where deaf women are treated as equals. 93 Ugandan police officers have recently graduated in sign language through UDEWO. They have even set up a WhatsApp group so that when a deaf woman reports a crime, they can send a trained officer to support her.
Fun fact: Rehema has a Masters degree in Human Rights, for which she was awarded a scholarship.
Find out more about International Women’s Day at www.internationalwomensday.com